Over the years, our firm has handled quite a few cases where a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle. Yet, each time, it seems the client is not sure about what the laws are as it relates to pedestrians in the roadway.
The first thing to examine is New Hampshire’s Pedestrian Right of Way statute, titled RSA 265:35. You can access a copy of the rule here. As paragraph I of the statute states, cars are required to yield to a pedestrian who is properly in the crosswalk. Thus, in a typical situation where a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, liability is generally clear. However, there are a few other factors under the statute that merit consideration. First, the pedestrian must not have suddenly darted in front of the vehicle causing it to hit them. This is a codification of the old adage “look both ways before you cross the street”. As long as you follow your parents’ old advice, you should be protected under the statute.
What is not clear to most clients is that a pedestrian, under the statute, must yield to cars in the road in the absence of a crosswalk. A lot of folks believe the reverse is true, in that a pedestrian always has the right of way. This is simply not true. The rule governing crossing the road without the use of a crosswalk is RSA 265:36, and you can access it here. As you can see, the pedestrian is required to yield to cars already in the roadway. The justification is easy to see. It’s a substantial risk to put the onus on drivers of cars to yield to all pedestrians anywhere, while in the same breath it’s easier for a pedestrian to see a car and yield to it.
As always, if you are approaching a busy intersection as a pedestrian, please use caution. No one wants to be hit by a car in what can amount to a life-threatening experience. Further, if you are operating a car around a heavily populated area, you must be aware of any and all crosswalks around you, and caution in approaching them must be exercised.